If you notice signs or symptoms of what may be dementia in yourself, or in a family member or friend, then it’s important to see a doctor.
If you are diagnosed with dementia, then an early diagnosis means early access to support, information and possibly medicines.
Also, there are other conditions that may be treatable, such as a vitamin deficiency, an infection or side effects from medicines, that produce similar signs and symptoms to dementia. Delaying seeing a doctor may delay effective treatment. Dementia isn’t a normal part of ageing.
It’s a good idea to have someone with you, such as a close family member or friend. This helps the doctor get the best information possible, and will help you remember what was discussed.
Your doctor may ask about previous illnesses and may also ask about changes in memory or thinking. They may carry out some cognitive tests which assess how well a person is thinking.
One type of cognitive test is a short screening test to evaluate things like memory, concentration and counting skills.
If a more detailed test is needed, the doctor may refer you to a neurologist (a doctor who specialises in conditions of the brain) a neuropsychologist (a psychologist who specialises in assessing and measuring brain function) or a geriatrician (a specialist in the health of older people).
Cognitive tests are very important when diagnosing dementia, and can help differentiate between the different types of the condition.
Your doctor may also request tests to look for easy-to-treat causes of the signs or symptoms, such as:
- blood tests
- urine tests
- brain imaging such as an MRI, CT or PET scan
- other tests such as a chest x-ray or ECG
Getting a clear diagnosis may take time. But it’s important.
How is dementia diagnosed? - expert advice
If you are worried about dementia, it is important to go see a doctor. Your doctor will use memory tests to identify any issues and may refer you to a specialist for further testing. Learn more about how dementia is diagnosed from the video below.
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Last reviewed: October 2018